Fifty years ago when Colin Edwards left his homeland of England and arrived in Guyana to work as a Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO), at the Ministry of Agriculture, he never imagined in his wildest dreams that he would become the founder and managing director of Rock View Lodge, one of the country’s most beautiful eco-tourism destinations, in Annai, Rupununi Savannahs, Region 9.
Rock View Lodge celebrates 27 years of pristine beauty, a hidden gem between the Amerindian villages of Annai and Rupertee where the Pakaraima foothills meet the tropical rainforest.
Edwards, with a very strong English accent, boasts that Rock View Lodge offers the best comfort, indoor and outdoor vacation options, such as cultural activities, steeped in authentic Amerindian hospitality.
The expansive grounds welcome visitors to well-furnished self-contained suits, horseback trails, birding, panorama nature trail on the mountain of the Sacred Table, excursions on the Rupununi River and Oxbow Lakes, craft demonstration, cashew nut roasting, and dining in an old family ranch house, decorated with a fine art collection, and music.
The moment visitors arrive just a stone’s throw from the airstrip, or overland via the Georgetown to Lethem trail, they are greeted with a delightful in-ground swimming pool, surrounded by greenery and poolside bar, just beyond the lodges decorated with Rupununi charm.
Edwards who came to the region in 1969 after graduating from the Agriculture College to offer his skills, fell in love with South America, and over the years has lived and traveled between Brazil and Guyana, to work.
He said through a cooperative system under then Cabinet Minister, Sydney King, (Eusi Kwayana) he was asked to integrate infrastructure for land settlement.
As such, he and his team constructed the Annai Airstrip and built roads for Port Kaituma, under then Prime Minister, Forbes Burnham. He was also instrumental in constructing roads in the Amazon rainforest of Brazil, and thousands of miles of roadways along the region.
He linked Lethem with Georgetown, and Guyana with Brazil, and worked on large International projects before deciding to branch out into tourism.
Edwards said Guyana needs a North South access to integrate the hinterland with the coastline.
“Guyana needs to give people the opportunity to set up, enterprise and development, whether tourism, or other activities such as mining, in order for them to contribute, to the economy.”
“From road construction, feasibility study, mining for gold with the Geological and Mines Commission, I then turned to tourism, and agriculture which was my real field of study at college,” said Edwards, who in hands-on in every aspect of the lodge.
“I started the concept of eco-tourism in the North Rupununi and now we have a number of wonderful lodges, each different from the other, but these offer a very diverse product for visitors from the diaspora,” said Edwards.
“Guyanese in the diaspora are eager to get to know their country again, to know the country they never knew before they left. We have specialist markets in birding, in adventure, and indigenous culture. All this is contributing to tourism as a sustainable economic activity to balance with the extracted economy, which is timber, bauxite, gold, diamond, now oil, he said.
Edwards has partnered with the Guyana Tourism Authority and the Tourism Hospitality Association of Guyana. They work together and support each other helping to organize itineraries, which involve as many locations as possible, whether by airlift or road, depending on the size of the group.
He said the partners work together through referrals, tour operators, and initiatives by the government, such as Frist Lady H. E. Sandra’s trip to unveil an ICT workshop at Bina Hill Institute Youth Center in Annai.
“We have a place where we can meet and contribute to capacity building in different aspects, whether education or tourism,” said the Englishman.
Edwards welcomes guests to relax and refresh at the “Rock” set amidst lush grounds, to get to know the rhythms of the Rupununi.
The resort is within easy access of the Annai Airstrip. Visitors could also travel by both scheduled flights and charted aircraft. Annai can also be reached via road from Georgetown to Lethem, which borders Brazil. Scheduled minibus service from Georgetown to Lethem is also available.
Edwards, himself is so enthralled and relaxed in the beautiful Savannah that he rarely ever leaves. He said his last visit to Europe was eight years ago. He however, makes the 240 km trek to Brazil every month to buy supplies for Rock View Lodge, rated on Trip Advisor and on Facebook.